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Full text of "My Country And My People"

222          MY    COUNTRY   AND    MY   PEOPLE

memorandums, and miscellaneous notes on a most promiscuous
variety of topics, historical, literary and supernatural. A most
characteristic fact is that almost all such works contain fifty
per cent of poetry, and all scholars are poets. Remembering
the fact that many of these authors have elsewhere written
consecutive treatises on special topics, this promiscuity is
perhaps pardonable. Against such kind considerations, how-
ever, is the fact that these essays and sketches contain the
cream of the literary activity of many authors, and the only
literary activity of most, and that they represent to the Chinese
"literature" par excellence. A Chinese schoolboy, in cultivating
a prose style, is made to repeat a selection of these essays and
sketches as his literary models.

Further consider the fact that these represent the main bulk
of the tremendous literary activities of a tremendous number of
scholars of all ages of a tremendously literary-inclined nation,
and one can feel only resignation or total disappointment.
Perhaps we are judging it by a modern standard which is
foreign to it. The human element is always there, too, human
joys and sorrows, and back of these works there were always
men whose personal lives or social surroundings we may be
interested in. But being modern, we cannot help judging it by
the modern standard. When one reads Kuei Yukuang's
biographical sketch of his mother, which is the work of the
foremost writer of his time and leader of a literary movement,
and remembers that this is the highest product of a lifetime of
devotion to learning, and then discovers in it only a purely
linguistic craftsmanship in imitating the ancients, laid over a
paucity of characterization, a vacuity of facts and a baldness of
sentiment, one has a right to be disappointed.

Good prose there is in Chinese classical literature, but one
will have to find it for oneself, with a new standard of valuation.
Whether for liberation of thought and sentiment or for libera-
tion of style, one will have to find it among a class of slightly
unorthodox writers, with a slight tinge of heresy in them, who
had so much intellectual content that they must have had a
natural contempt for the carcass of style. Such writers are, for
instance, Su Tungp'o, Ytian Chunglang, Yuan Mei, Li Liweng,
Kung Ting-an, all of whom were intellectual rebels, and whose